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  • courtesy of the artist
  • Joëlle Léandre

The Bridge, an ongoing partnership between improvisers from Chicago and throughout France, is in the midst of another local run with one of its strongest lineups yet. Making its first appearance in Chicago is the first iteration of the project, which toured France in the fall of 2013: from across the pond come trumpeter Jean-Luc Cappozzo, bassist Joëlle Léandre, and bassist Bernard Santacruz; they join local percussionist Michael Zerang and reedist Douglas Ewart. Also performing on certain gigs is the Bridge #8, which pairs reedists Mars Williams and Ernest Dawkins with drummer Samuel Silvant and reedist Antonin-Tri Hoang. Both lineups will participate in a bunch of upcoming events through May 8—you can check out the complete rundown on the project’s website.

The Bridge #1, also known as Sonic Communion, will perform a free concert at Black Cinema House on Monday and will also play two full sets next Thursday, May 7, at Elastic and another next Friday, May 8, at Experimental Sound Studio. Bridge #8 will play Tuesday at the Whistler. Below you can listen to “Planet Earth Folk Song,” a track from Sonic Communion’s new eponymous album, which is also the initial release on the Bridge Session, the new label created to document the project.

One of the most exciting parts of the visit happens tomorrow, when Léandre plays a free solo concert at Corbett vs. Dempsey. She’s one of the most powerful musicians in all of improvised music—a seriously visceral player whose arco technique is starkly ferocious—an accomplished performer of contemporary classical music (I first heard her in the late 80s via her interpretations of Cage and Scelsi), and an imaginative vocalist, usually performed in tandem with her bass playing. She’s long been a dominant feminist force in improvised music, working early on with women like Irene Schweizer, Maggie Nicols, and Lindsay Cooper in helping to clear space in a male-dominated field. Of course, Léandre’s collaborative spirit has never been limited by gender—in her prolific career she’s worked closely with folks like Cage, Derek Bailey, Urs Leimgruber, Fred Frith, and George Lewis, among countless others. Her solo concerts are always physically intense experiences, akin to the jaw-dropping power produced in the same setting by Peter Kowald or William Parker (albeit in her own unique fashion).

Last year she released an impressive album with former Chicago flutist Nicole Mitchell (who also complements her playing with singing) on Sisters Where (Rogue Art). The musicians reveal a clear affinity for one another, deftly mixing serenity and turbulence, moving from passages of crystalline melody to rumbling abstraction. Below you can listen to “Sisters on Mars” from the album.


Speaking of Mitchell, she’s also in town this weekend, performing on Saturday night at the Museum of Contemporary Art with her Black Earth Ensemble to give the world premiere of her latest suite, a multimedia sci-fi work called Mandorla Awakening that’s inspired by the writings of Octavia Butler and Riane Eisler. That concert is part of this weekend’s Creative Music Summit, which also includes a Sunday concert led by violinist and composer Renée Baker, where her Chicago Modern Orchestra Project will be enhanced by the presence of all five members of Sonic Communion.

Today’s playlist:

John Zorn, The Concealed (Tzadik)
Chihuahua All-Stars, Descarga Cubana (Caney)
Jim Black AlasNoAxis, Antiheroes (Winter & Winter)
Joshua Rubin, There is Never No Light (Tundra)
Motif, Expansion (AIM)